Title: Holding Up the Universe
Author: Jennifer Niven
My Rating: 1/5 stars
Once known as “America’s Fattest Teen”, Libby Strout used to be so big that she was unable to fit through her bedroom door. Firemen were called, and she was lifted by crane from her home. After losing much of the weight, though, Libby is ready to go back to high school after several years of homeschooling.
As for Jack Masselin, he has a problem that’s not as easily spotted: he’s unable to recognize faces. He manages to make it through school by being charming, knowing just what to say and learning to recognize people by other traits. He manages to fake it so no one knows his secret.
Through a series of unlikely scenarios, these two characters come together to form a friendship, and I’m forced to assume more than that? I wouldn’t know because I only made it about 1/3 of the way through this book.
I don’t typically review books that I’ve DNF’d, but I find it difficult not to share my concerns about Holding Up the Universe. There was so much that was unrealistic about this that it was hard for me to take it seriously. I couldn’t help but wonder how this idea ever made it past Niven’s agents, or whoever decides what books get published.
I’m fully aware of how real of a problem that bullying is. While I never attended public school myself, I was definitely not well-liked in the private schools/homeschool groups that I attended in middle school. I was always the odd ball and occasionally made fun of. I was never bullied for my weight; I was a skinny kid so at least I didn’t have that going against me. However, I have such a hard time believing that a fat girl can’t walk down the hall without one person snickering at her or making fun of her. It seems unnecessarily cruel.
Please correct me if I’m wrong. As I stated, I never went to public school, but most of the people I know who did say that it’s never as bad as it’s portrayed on TV. And even though I was never a part of that scene, I was still a kid who spent plenty of time with other kids, and I gave many of them plenty of reasons to bully me. I seem to have come away from it only slightly scarred.
While I wasn’t overweight as a teenager, I’m a little on the plus size now. I read this book and I have a hard time believing that Jennifer Niven understands at all what it’s like to be fat. I’m not saying that a writer has to be fat in order to write the part of a fat character; however, she doesn’t seem to understand Libby herself, so it was hard for me to connect with the character regardless of me being overweight as well.
I’m all for a story about empowerment and self-love, but even though Libby had seemed to come to terms with her body and the way she looked, she based her happiness and her self-confidence on whether or not she could get a boyfriend. She literally walked into school on her first day back hoping to find a boy who would “sex the weight right off” of her. Um, what?
Don’t even get me started on Jack. His character was even less believable, and I couldn’t connect with him on any level. He was cocky and confusing and shallow.
I closed the book for good during a part where the two MCs are in the car together. Jack thinks in his head something along the lines of: “I can feel the electricity between us” (paraphrased). Excuse me? What electricity? These two were hardly friends, let alone romantic. There was no chemistry between them. Niven literally forced these two to fall in love and it was cringe-worthy to say the least. Can someone say “instalove”?
This book was trying too hard to be Eleanor & Park, and frankly, I think you should go read that instead. And for the record, this is the second time I have DNF’d a book by Jennifer Niven. Seeing as we’re 2/2, I think we should stop seeing each other. Bye.